Advocates celebrate signing of Child Victims Act, promise to continue fight

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Child Victims Act into law on Thursday. (Photo courtesy of Fighting for Children PAC)
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Child Victims Act into law on Thursday. (Photo courtesy of Fighting for Children PAC)

Gary Greenberg, who survived sexual abuse as a child and went on to found the Fighting for Children PAC to advocate for reform, said that since 1967, he had sworn to himself that he and other survivors “would see justice one day.”

That day came with the signing of the Child Victims Act last Thursday, 42 years later.

“The 7-year-old Gary Greenberg whose soul was murdered and taken away from him by a real-life monster so many years ago was vindicated today, as predators in New York have been put on notice: Your days of terrorizing New York’s children are over,” Greenberg said. “Now, thanks to this historic legislation, we will root out systemic abuse, bring abusers to justice and issue the most widespread set of protections for children that this state has ever seen.”

The Fighting for Children PAC, also known as Protect NY Kids, was formed in 2016 and became one of the leading advocacy groups lobbying for the passage of the Child Victims Act.

The New York Child Victims Act, sponsored by state Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Democrat, and state Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan), was signed into law last Thursday, after more than a decade fighting for the specific bill.

Now, survivors will have until they are 55 years old to file civil lawsuits and a deadline of 28 years old to file criminal charges. It also creates a one-year window for survivors to re-introduce claims that go beyond the statute of limitations.

“For years, survivors of child sexual abuse looked to Albany for justice and for years, their pleas went unanswered,” Hoylman said. “No longer.”

Between 2008 and 2018, the law was passed in the state Assembly six times but never even reached the floor of the state Senate for a vote until this year, when Democrats took control of the upper chamber.

Gary Greenberg and State Sen. Anna Kaplan pose for a photo following the signing of the Child Victims Act. (Photo courtesy of Fighting for Children PAC)
Gary Greenberg and state Sen. Anna Kaplan pose for a photo following the signing of the Child Victims Act. (Photo courtesy of Fighting for Children PAC)

Democrats running for New York State Senate, including Anna Kaplan, who was elected to represent District 7 on the North Shore of Nassau County in November, had also honed in on the issue both in rallies and debates.

Brian Toale, a Child Victims Act advocate who said he was abused at Chaminade High School about four decades ago, described the law’s signing as a step “towards justice” and “exposing those who have managed to stay in the shadows.”

“Many people really need help, they really need compensation and for those people this is great,” Toale said. “But it’s also the whole idea of justice, about being heard, about being seen, [taking on] powerful interests putting their welfare ahead of the people they were supposed to be protecting.”

Now the next step is educating people about the law and getting the information out, Toale said.

Connie Altamirano, another survivor and childhood victims rights advocate who partnered frequently with the Fighting for Children PAC, also said this is just the beginning.

“This victory, while significant for survivors and future generations of children, is only the beginning for New York,” Altamirano said. “We need more broad protections for kids, including removing the statute of limitations completely and setting up mandatory programs for education and prevention. This battle is far from over.”

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